BY MITCH JACKSON
Illustration by Ben van Duyvendyk
If you have social anxiety, going to a show is kind of terrifying. There’s way too many people. There’s not enough space. You kind of know some people from the Internet but not really. There’s eye contact and small talk and lots of standing with tense muscles. That’s okay though because there’s music and you’re about to learn how to survive in that environment. Here are some medically approved tips:
Find a wall to lean on.
This way no one can sneak up from behind you and start a conversation. All potential interactions are in front of you and you have time to prepare yourself mentally and physically. (Leaning against a wall lessens the pressure on your lower body muscles, thus devoting more overall energy to conversation and not freaking out). Venues with good walls include: Gabba Hey, Ritual, and most houses. Venues falling short of good walls: Pressed—because it is rude to lean against someone’s art.
Hold something in your hand.
When I used to drink, beer was good for this. Water is now my go-to beverage, which is good because it keeps me hydrated and my mind focused on potential social scenarios and my reactions to them. Sometimes I also look at my phone and refresh Twitter a lot. Please don’t do this during the actual set; that is the equivalent of leaning against paintings.
Go with a friend.
Don’t meet them at the show. Give them an exact location to meet that is either your place of residence or theirs. This allows you to get some social practice in before the big event. It helps if this friend is *popular* in the scene and is talkative and generally good with people. This way they can carry most of the conversations that you wind up in, and if they’re a great friend they will easily let you in and out of the conversation as you tread the waters.
Be in a band.
It’s totally fine if you don’t know how to play an instrument. The only people who care about virtuosity are probably at the Rainbow wearing loose fitting jeans. Being in a band is cool because you have a goddamn purpose for being there. You’re doing something. You’re making “ART”. You don’t have to worry about holding water in your hand because you’re holding a drumstick in one hand and a bass guitar in another. Plus, when you’re not playing, you can pretend to mess around with your gear to avoid talking to people. This is why you should purchase as many pedals as possible with your OSAP funds. If anyone wants an MXR Blue Pedal please contact me as I am trying to sell it, this is not a joke.
If anyone wants a free experimental music idea to get you into the hottest new art collective/band/lizard organization here is mine: install MIDI triggers in a whack-a-mole game, connect that to a MacBook owned by some guy who listens to too much Death Grips and just give’r. You people better catch onto this quickly because I hear there’s at least 10 bands in Montreal experimenting with this kind of setup in some loft.
Just stay home.
In the words of Tropical Dripps//Creep Wave/Doxx drummer Kieran, “you miss 100% of the bands that you don’t see”. What’s also true is that you miss 100 per cent of the social situations that you bail on. Those odds are hard to ignore when the Facebook event notification lights up your phone and you start the next season of House of Thrones (lol get it).
It is really difficult to balance the intense anxiety of actually attending a show and the depressive FOMO and guilt that comes along with staying home. What I’ve done to alleviate the latter is to brand myself as a “hermit” who never leaves their house. That way expectations are low and any appearance you actually make will be met with surprise. Plus while you may not be meeting general social expectations, at least you get the satisfaction of maintaining your brand.
All in all, this advice might be completely useless. But just know that there’s someone else suffering with you.